Chances are if you are a new handler and visiting this site for the first time then you have many questions. What type dog should I use for search and rescue? Should I start with a puppy or an adult dog? How do I train my canine?
All these questions we will try and answer. Let's start with the basics. What are the type of search and rescue dogs? There are primarily 2 types of search and rescue dogs ... air-scenting and tracking or trailing dogs. There are many classifications under these 2 types such as scent discriminating verses non-scent discriminating. Air-scenting dogs use airborne human scent to home in on subjects, whereas trailing dogs rely on scent of the specific subject to locate a victim or clues.
Selecting a search and rescue dog: This task can be very troublesome for a new handler. How do I know I am selecting a reliable dog to use for search and rescue work. There are some guideling you can use. While no screening method is 100% accurate, you can prevent a lot of frustration by following a few basic guidelines. Most search and rescue dogs are driven to succeed by either a prey, food or praise drive. For search and rescue, I typically look for a high prey drive then work on supporting training with food and praise. Screening should be carried out at puppy selection between the ages of 8 - 12 weeks. Prey drive is easily tested for by tying a toy or small towel onto the end of a string and dragging it across the ground in quick jerky movements.
Questions when choosing a dog: What breed dog should I use? This is a tricky question because many handlers have many different opinions on what can and can not be used. I tend to think of what tool is right for the job when choosing a breed. Is the breed the right size or have the right coat for the climate in my area. For example, on size, you want a dog small enough to be agile but large enough to have stamina and endurance. For coat, I tend to choose a dog that has a double coat because of both the climate and terrain in Kentucky. I want the dog to be able to function in both hot and cold weather conditions.
ARDA (American Rescue Dog Association) recommends choosing a puppy with the following traits. When choosing a dog breed suitable for search and rescue work, it is recommended to choose from a breed that possesses such traits as:
•Excellent scenting capability
•Strong drives (prey, pack, play, etc.)
•High degree of intelligence
•High degree of trainability